Wood and the inspector pointed out various body parts and explained the next steps in the process. First came "bunging" — cutting out the butthole. Then they slit the pig's belly and pulled out internal organs, being careful not to puncture any. Then they sawed the carcass in half and sprayed it with a vinegar peroxide mixture that would kill bacteria and hung it to dry. The next day, a butcher would come and cut it into familiar parts — pork loin, ribs, and chops.

My fears of fainting started to wane. Yes, it was tough to watch, but I was now beginning to understand the process that turned a pig into pork. Here, on this small farm, it takes about 30 minutes to clean the carcass from the moment it has been stunned. Today, it took longer due to the million questions I asked.

Hogs on the farm reach slaughter weight — 225 to 250 pounds — at eight to ten months. Palmetto Creek does not sell suckling pigs or roasters under 100 pounds. "We don't feel comfortable killing something that young," Wood said. The pigs live their entire lives outside, on the same farm, familiar with their surroundings until the moment they are stunned. The hogs are even run through the knock box several times throughout their lives so it's not frighteningly new to them the day they are put inside to be killed. According to Keith, "The only difference is, this time, the front door to the box is closed. They don't even have time to figure it out."

It's a pretty good life for a pig — until the end.
Sara Ventiera
It's a pretty good life for a pig — until the end.

Juxtapose that to pigs raised on factory farms, where animals are usually stuck indoors with little room to move around. The lack of space prevents the hogs from burning calories, which helps them to reach slaughter weight in just six months, which means big farms can produce almost double the amount of pork in a year that a natural farm can. But lack of activity makes those pigs tense. Combine that with the strain of transportation — from breeding farm to feeding farm to pen to processing plant — and factory-farmed animals are stressed for the majority of their lives.

The hogs at Palmetto Creek Farms live well. They are treated with care and respect from the moment they are born to the minute they are slaughtered. Of course, when their meat comes to your plate, it will cost you. Pork chops from Palmetto Farms cost about $10 for a pound; at a regular grocery store, the rate is more like $4 a pound.

I assumed I would by traumatized by this experience, but I wasn't. It is not pleasant to watch anything die prematurely, but I knew these pigs were reared for the sole purpose of consumption. It's not a fact that anyone tries to hide. The process is open. So open that Jim Wood allowed a writer to document the procedure — "very rare for a slaughter," according to the USDA inspector. This is the way farming should be: transparent.

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3 comments
Danielle
Danielle

bacon is my favorite food in the whole entire world BUT if I had to kill the pig (or other animals as well) I would totally be a vegetarian. I like my meat coming to me in a package and have NO desire to ever witness the killing, or actually do it. 

primetime
primetime

I am a meat eater in the truest sense of the word. I have never seen an animal slaughtered and have no desire to do so. Witnessing an animal being killed and prepared for human consumption would not turn me into a vegan. What a person decides to ingest or not is their own preference. From the beginning time, man has openly killed and eaten animals so his family, tribe or village would be fed. That is the way it has always been and will always be. Don't call me I am a murderer because I choose to eat meat and enjoy it and I won't make fun of you because you look gaunt and pale from a lack of protein.

J
J

I am guessing the writer does not eat any meat nor pork ? Or is this just the 1st time she's seen an animal get slaughtered ?  My grandfather grew up in el campo ' the country' in Cuba. Growing up I saw him kill chickens, slaughter pigs, it is not fun nor does anyone take pleasure in it, but it has to be done if you want to eat. Since the majority of people now days do not live on a farm or in the country they do not see the ugly side. 

 
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